COLUMN: Taking the lead on leg-hold traps

There’s no nice way to put it. Leg-hold traps are evil devices.

COLUMN: Taking the lead on leg-hold traps

“… it had been stuck for at least two days, had chewed four to five centimetres into its own leg, its paw had been twisted 360 degrees around as it struggled to free itself, the bone was broken in half and the wound was septic.”

So reads the grim description from Critter Care Wildlife Society following an examination of a coyote found in a leg-hold trap in Abbotsford last weekend.

We thought the photos of the animal’s mangled leg were too graphic for this newspaper.

They would certainly have delivered a visual message, although I’d imagine some children would have found them very upsetting.

However, there’s no nice way to put it. Leg-hold traps are evil devices.

Padded or not, there’s nothing humane about them.

They are designed to capture a creature by clamping onto a leg, and there it remains, until it is dispatched by the person who set the trap, (and that could be days); chews its leg off to escape and lives a doomed, crippled existence; or succumbs to dehydration, starvation, infection or becomes a meal for a predator.

In cold enough temperatures, a marginally more merciful end is death by freezing.

In the case of beavers, they drown.

Discomforting to think that this nation was literally built on a foundation of furs acquired by trapping. The amount of suffering by millions of creatures over a few hundred years is really quite unthinkable. Probably, most of us don’t bother.

However, you would think that this abominable practice would be abolished by now. Yet, it has not.

Contemporary trappers will argue that it is indeed a way of life. They try to get to their traps regularly, to preserve the furs in the best condition. And there is use of Conibear traps, which are designed to theoretically deliver a quicker demise, by breaking the animal’s neck or back.

Undeniably, there remains a demand for authentic wild fur in the fashion world. Less so, of course, than years past, thanks to animal rights groups, and high-profile people who have spoken out against trapping.

But put the commercial fur trade debate aside for a moment.

In this case, it was a coyote that was trapped, and writhed in agony for an estimated two days. It may have been the intended catch of that leg-hold trap. Or, it may have been the victim of someone trying to rid the area of the critters. No one knows who set those metal jaws.

There may be some justification for lowering the local coyote population; however, an underlying issue once again – not unlike the controversial blueberry cannons – is the conflict posed by the urban/rural interface.

As the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals (APFBA) points out, these traps are being set out here, in areas where there are domestic pets and kids. There are documented cases of both being unintended victims, especially dogs.

Short of a full ban, the association is calling for changes to trapping laws, such as the requirement of warning signage, and tags or serial numbers on the traps, so the owner can be identified.

It’s not uncommon for cities, including Abbotsford apparently, to call in trappers to get rid of nuisance beavers that are flooding roads and waterways.

For modern civic governments to employ or condone this archaic method is simply not acceptable, especially when humane alternatives exist.

Abbotsford city council recently, and courageously, passed a bylaw banning shark fin sales and products in this community.

Once again, they should take a leadership role, pass the regulations the APFBA suggests, and ultimately, relegate body-gripping traps to the dark closet of history.